If you’ve ever researched skincare advice for breakout-prone skin, you’re bound to have come across the term “salicylic acid.” A popular skincare ingredient used in cleansers, exfoliators, serums and moisturisers, it’s considered a Holy Grail ingredient among skincare professionals. But what exactly is it and how does it work? We’ve got the lowdown.
What is it?
Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (also known as BHA), which is essentially an organic compound with anti-inflammatory properties. BHA’s are oil-soluble, which means they can easily break through the skin cell’s lipid layers and penetrate the skin at a deeper level than water-soluble products. This makes them excellent exfoliators, and means they have the ability to slough away dead skin cells.
Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring molecule derived from willow bark. The acid part of the molecule can break down the proteins holding skin cells together, allowing the product to exfoliate and remove impurities from the pores.
How does it benefit breakout-prone skin?
Salicylic acid has the ability to penetrate deeply into the skin (i.e. Go beyond the surface layer), which makes it a powerful breakout-fighter. Once it penetrates skin, is dissolves the debris sitting in the skin’s pores as well as impurities on top of the skin, and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It can penetrate so deeply into the skin that it can break down the “glue” (also known as desmosomes) between skin cells. This action promotes exfoliation and the unclogging of pores.
These abilities make it the perfect ingredient to fight acne, blackheads and whiteheads. By unclogging pores it removes the dead skin cells, debris and oil that leads to the formation of breakouts. No clogged pores = no blackheads and fewer breakouts.
It reduces the skin’s natural oil production, which is essential to control breakouts as an over-production of oil is a leading cause of acne.
Salicylic acid is a powerful exfoliant. It sloughs off dead and dry skin cells on the top layer of the skin which fights breakouts as it doesn’t allow pores to become clogged. This exfoliating action also leaves the complexion looking more radiant and allows products to penetrate deeper into the skin, thus performing better.
Who can use salicylic acid?
In general, salicylic acid is safe to use on all skin types. It is very effective for breakout-prone skin but can also be used for its exfoliating properties on skins that are not prone to breakouts.
If you’re new to salicylic acid, it’s best to ease it into your regime by using it a couple of times per week, slowly working your way up to every day. Don’t be alarmed if you experience slight tingling upon the first application – this is normal and your skin will get accustomed to this new ingredient before you know it.
Salicylic acid is most effective in the fight against blackheads and whiteheads. If you have cystic acne, it’s best to visit a medical professional who can diagnose the root of the problem and advise suitable treatment, as it may be caused by hormonal factors or P.acnes bacteria.
Products to try
The good news is that you can purchase salicylic acid skincare products over the counter, without a referral from a dermatologist. We recommend NIP+FAB’s Salicylic Fix range and Creightons Skincare’s Salicylic Acid range for affordable products that offer real results.
A salicylic acid cleanser is vital when you’re trying to combat breakouts. Creightons Salicylic Acid Clay Cleanser (R79.95) combines kaolin clay with salicylic and lactic acids to help absorb excess oil and maintain healthier, clearer looking skin every day. It has a clay texture which also helps manage excess oil production.
If you prefer a gel texture, try NIP+FAB Salicylic Fix Cleanser (R219.95). It gently cleanses and purifies the skin with salicylic acid to lift away dirt and impurities and allantoin to provide a moisture barrier and lock in hydration.
If you like a granular exfoliator, try NIP+FAB Salicylic Fix Scrub (R219.95). It contains salicylic acid to chemically exfoliate the skin and volcanic rock scrub to physically exfoliate, plus it is infused with lotus flower and vitamin E to avoid stripping the skin.
If you prefer a chemical exfoliator, then you’ll love NIP+FAB Salicylic Acid Fix Night Pads (R349.95). Simply wipe one pad across your skin two or three nights a week to reduce breakouts and speed up the recovery time of existing breakouts.
If you have an existing blemish you want to treat, apply one of NIP+FAB’s Salicylic Fix Spot Patches (R169.95) directly over the blemish and leave on for a minimum of six hours. It contains a blemish fighting duo of salicylic acid and tea tree to effectively reduce and improve the appearance of blemishes. Each sachet offers two sizes to target your treatment, ensuring maximum coverage of the affected area.
A salicylic acid serum and moisturizer duo are the final steps in your breakout-busting routine. Creightons Salicylic Acid Face Serum (R109.95) is formulated with 2% salicylic acid to help reduce the appearance of blackheads, blemishes and pores for a clearer, more radiant complexion.
Follow with Creightons Salicylic Acid Soothing Lotion (R74.95), a lightweight lotion that soothes and cares for angry, blemish-prone skin without clogging pores or being too heavy on the skin.
Whether you regularly battle blackheads and whiteheads, or you’re just prone to the occasional breakout, salicylic acid is a fantastic ingredient to exfoliate, remove dead skin cells and leave skin clear and healthy.
Compiled by: Freebees PR and Marketing
Images provided by: Freebees PR and Marketing
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